Tuesday, August 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Human Rights Watch's report on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community gets some press coverage, the SOFA's back in the news, the right-wing notices how little Iraq now matters to the so-called 'antiwar movement', and more.
This is Iraqi Mustafa sharing his story:
There is a hmam [bath] in Basra that gays frequent. I entered, but I was very careful how I looked and acted. I took a shower, and then this man approached me. He started talking about the situation in Iraq: how people should be more open, accept changes and change with them. He was very clever in his questions!
He asked if I watched satellite TV. I said yes. He asked if I watched the European channels. I denied that I did. He said, "The Internet is a good thing; it is good that it came to our country." He asked what websites I visited. I just said, various ones. He asked if I went to porn sites. I denied it. Then he asked if I used Manjam [a personals site popular among gay men]. He was very smart: that website is only known among the gays, I thought. When he said that, I trusted him; I admitted it.
He smiled for a couple of minutes, a very neutral, slick smile, just looking at me. Then he grabbed me by the hair and started beating me, shouting, "You are gays." That was how he said it: gays. He dragged me out of the shower; I begged him to let me put my clothes on, and he let me dress, but then he dragged me onto the street, shouting "You sodomite!" [Enta luti].
People gathered around us while he was hitting me, and tried to interfere. They said, "How do you know he is a sodomite? Did you see him practicing liwat?" The man said, "I have my own ways of find out!" I was begging them to help, and while they were trying to reason with him, I took advantage of the confusion and ran away. We were on a narrow, winding street; I must have run 300 meters before I reached a shop where they sell rope. I shouted dakhilak [a cry for asylum]. The owner let me hide in his shop.
He put me in the cellar, but even there I could hear the man shouting, "Where is he?" and other voices joining him. Two hours later, the owner told me he had to close the shop. He said the man was from the Mahdi Army and the militia was searching for me up and down the street. I pleaded with him to let me stay overnight, and so he shuttered the shop up and let me hide there. In the morning, after dawn prayer, he came and said it was safe and I ran away.
Mustafa is among the Iraqis sharing his story in a Human Rights Watch report entitled "'They Want Us Exterminated': Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq." For the 67-page report [PDF format warning] click here. We noted the report yesterday and we're noting it again today. It is news. Iraq's LGBT community is being targeted. And, with that it, all people who don't fit some theocratic thug's stereotype of what a man or a woman is. They're being terrorized and this is taking place while US troops are on the ground which really underscores that US troops need to leave Iraq. When they can't even provide protection to the at risk population, there's no reason for them to remain in the country. Human Rights Watch's report notes that the Kurdistan Regional Government does everything they can to publicly black out discussions of same-sex issues. In terms of the KRG, that's it from the report. The gangs are Shi'ites, militias. Allowed to operate and terrorize by Nouri's security forces who look the other way even as the bodies pile up. In April 2008, Mashal was kidnapped in Baghdad. He tells HRW, "There was a police patrol right next to my store when they kidnapped me; they saw everything that was happening, but they didn't intervene. Everyone believes the police [in the area] are under the control of the Mahdi Army." Nouri's security forces and Interior Ministry are accused of blackmailing gays on top of everything ("And gay men are especially easy for them to blackmail," says an Iraqi military officer). The report notes, "One young man told us a story in which official corruption and brutality intertwine. In early 2009, as the broader militia campaign was getting underway. Ministry of Interior officers kidnapped and tortured him in a murderous shakedown, to extort money because they knew he worked with an LGBT organization abroad. He paid and escaped. He says he saw the bodies of five men killed because they could not pay." Nuri was stopped by the police, a bag pulled over his head, beaten and pulled into a car which desposited him at the Interior Ministry:
Once we got there, I heard them talking on a walkie-talkie: they were telling people from the intelligence service what had happened.
They put me in a room, a regular room, took the bag off my head, and there I was with five other gay men. I didn't know them previously, but I found out we had mutual friends. They gave their female names but not their real names. Gay men in Iraq are very cautious that way.
Then two hours later, they separated us and put each in a room. After they separated us, I didn't know anything about the fate of the other five men. And then a police officer dame and said, "Do you know where you are? You are in the interrogation wing of the Ministry of Interior." He told me, 'If you have ten thousand US dollars, we will let you go."
I said I didn't have that kind of money.
The next day at 10 a.m., they cuffed by hands behind my back. Then they tied a rope around my legs, and they hung me upside down from a hook in the ceiling, from morning till sunset. I passed out. I was stripped down to my underwear while I was hung upside down. They cut me down that night, but they gave me no water or food.
In the United States, we were outraged, appalled and disgusted by the events of October 12, 1998. That was when Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered. He was beaten, tortured and left to die tied to a fence. It was outrageous and inhumane. And Matthew Shepard's brutal death galvanized the country into action and out of apathy on the issue. In Iraq today, there are multiple Matthew Shepards, targeted because they are gay or thought to be gay, targeted, threatened, beaten, murdered. And the White House has not condemned it and the United Nations has not condemned it and just attempting to get press coverage of the issue is like moving a mountain.
Steve Inskeep (NPR) observes, "The report is painful to read. It begins with the words of an Iraqi man describing the abduction, murder, and mutiliation of his partner -- and it's not clear from the description if the three-events happened in that order. Like many HRW reports it appears to be based on the specific detailed accounts of survivors and eyewitnesses. Homosexuality in Iraq is so thoroughly submerged that according to the report there is not even a commonly accepted term for it, no Iraqi equivalent of 'gay.' Nevertheless it has become a major focus for Iraqi militiamen, who have waged a 'killing campaign' to eliminate what some consider a social disease brought by the American army." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) adds, "Among the tortures described to Human Rights Watch researchers by gays and doctors is the practice of injecting glue into men's anuses. Human Rights Watch says that according to the gays its researchers interviewed, the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr, 'bears primary responsibility and launched the killing in early 2009'." CBC speaks with HRW's Tom Porteous who states, "One theory is in order to maintain relevance and to gain publicity, they are now taking it upon themselves to run a campaign to -- in the words of some preachers and some media commentators -- cleanse the country of depravity, which again is bieng interpreted as being brought in by the foreign invasion and occupation." Neal Broveman (The Advocate) covers the report and how "Iraqi officials allegedly knew about the murders but have done little to stop future killings." Dalila Mahdwai (Lebanon's Daily Star) explains, "Although the violence is mainly concentrated in the Iraqi capital, abuse has also been recorded in other the cities of Basra, Kirkuk and Najaf, Moumneh said. 'Murders are committed with impunity, admonitory in intent, with corpses dumped in garbage or hung as warnings on the street,' the report said." Free Speech Radio News points out, "Homosexuality is not illegal in Iraq, and according to HRW, the militia action spurred by the Mahdi Army violates the tenets of legality, proof, and privacy enshrined in Sharia law as well." Mark Memmott (NPR) includes HRW's call for Nouri al-Maliki's government to condenm the assaults while Alsumaria notes, "Iraq authorities have done nothing to stop the killing, Human Rights Watch said calling on Iraq's government to act urgently to rein in militia abuses, punish the perpetrators, and stop a new resurgence of violence that threatens all Iraqis' safety."
It matters. So does the Iraq War -- although to some it's past tense "so did." Conservative Byron York (Washington Examiner) observes:
Remember the anti-war movement? Not too long ago, the Democratic party's most loyal voters passionately opposed the war in Iraq. Democratic presidential candidates argued over who would withdraw American troops the quickest. Netroots activists regularly denounced President George W. Bush, and sometimes the U.S. military ("General Betray Us"). Cindy Sheehan, the woman whose soldier son was killed in Iraq, became a heroine when she led protests at Bush's Texas ranch.
That was then. Now, even though the United States still has roughly 130,000 troops in Iraq, and is quickly escalating the war in Afghanistan -- 68,000 troops there by the end of this year, and possibly more in 2010 -- anti-war voices on the Left have fallen silent.
He explains that at Netroots Nation (Daily Toilet Scrubbers Unite!), Stan Greenberg polled and the dead last issue for the Cult of St. Barack was "working to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan." Byron York's not pointing out anything that we haven't pointed out community wide; however, it's worth noting that the right-wing is now laughing at the hypocrisy of the so-called left. As they should. (York also notes Cindy Sheehan will be at Martha's Vineyard next week to protest during Barack's vacation there.) Byron York offers more honesty than 'from the left' Brian Katulis who writes at American Progress that the SOFA creates "an unconditional withdrawal of U.S. forces on a three-year timeline" -- it does no such thing. What a load of crap and what a way to flaunt ignorance. No link to trash (or government propaganda -- US Institute of Peace). I'm real damn sorry that little Katulis felt the need to talk about something he knows nothing about but for those who actually have signed contracts -- and for those of us who have been able to legally break those contracts -- we're damn well aware of what a contract does and doesn't do. The SOFA replaced the UN mandate for the occupation. The US didn't want to renew it because the US government already wasn't living up to legal obligations under it. Nouri didn't want to renew it because under the UN mandate he had less ability to manuever. The SOFA was a way to continue the Iraq War. It was not about ending it. It is a three year treaty and, at the end of it, it can be extended. That's why Nouri floated that idea on his DC visit last month. If you've never signed a contract and/or you have no background in contract law, maybe it's time you just found something else to talk about it because you only embarrass yourself as you attempt to misinform others.
On the SOFA, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that Nouri al-Maliki is now backing a referendum on the US remaining in Iraq. For those who have forgotten, even with the US and Nouri strong-arming the Iraqi Parliament last November, even with many fleeing to avoid voting on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement, in order to barely squeak by with the votes needed, it was promised that, in July, a referendum would be held on the SOFA. July came and went without a vote. Nouri's proposing the referendum being part of the January vote (national elections are scheduled for January -- postponed from December). Parliament doesn't come back until September. Nouri's announcement appears to be another in his many efforts to woo voters. If January 2010 the voters decided to reject the SOFA, that would mean after Iraq's government notified the US that they were rejecting it, the SOFA would end one year from that date. Londono says January 2011. That's optimistic. Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) says a vote would mean that US troops would leave "by the end of 2010 instead of 2011." What?
From the SOFA:
The Period for which the Agreement is Effective
1. This Agreement shall be effective for a period of three years, unless terminated sooner by either Party pursuant to paragraph 3 of this Article.
2. This Agreement shall be amended only with the official agreement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional procedures in effect in both countries.
3. This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect.
4. This Agreement shall enter into force on January 1, 2009, following an exchange of diplomatic notes confirming that the actions by the Parties necessary to bring the Agreement into force in accordance with each Party's respective constitutional procedures have been completed.
The one that applies is "3. This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect." If the SOFA is followed, a January vote -- even if the count was instant and it was certified on the day of the vote and swearing in and all other official acts all took place on the same voting day -- would not mean a December 2010 departure. Is counting really that hard?
Back to our main point, it takes a minimum of approximately nine days for Iraq to get an official count of a vote. It could be February before a vote was official. And from that point, the Iraqi government (not the voters) have to formally notify the US government that they are ending the SOFA. According to the SOFA's outlines, it would expire one year after the official notification was made to the US government. A minimum of nine days and national elections, Londono notes, are supposed to take place January 16th. That would be January 26th at the earliest. And it would likely be February. If Parliament approves and it goes through. Londono notes that the basic framework needed for the January national elections have still not taken place.
In addition to the referendum on the SOFA in July, Daniel Atzmon (Foreign Policy In Focus) points out that another thing was offered to push the SOFA through the Iraqi Parliament, "The Reform Document addressed concerns about Maliki's growing clout and authoritarian tendencies by calling for more equitable power sharing in the government and security forces." Atzmon explains that the Reform Document has been largely forgotten and sketches out reality for Iraq today:
In the chaos that came with the insurgency in Iraq, it has become all too easy to label and detain innocent individuals as insurgents for political reasons. Maliki and his inner circle have garnered disturbing control over Iraqi security forces, using them to crack down on political threats. In his capacity as commander-in-chief, Maliki has assumed direct command of two army units and the elite Baghdad Brigade. He is also using U.S.-trained Iraqi Special Forces and the counterterrorism taskforce, both of which report directly to him, to advance his personal agenda.
Furthermore, Maliki is able to directly appoint military leaders without parliamentary approval. Some are concerned that the military's loyalty will be to Maliki, not Iraq. In addition to his command of military resources, Maliki controls his own intelligence service through the ministry of national security, run by a close ally.
Maliki is wielding his power to ensure support from local leaders, based on a system of fear and rewards. Some tribal leaders toe Maliki's Dawa party line in fear of arrest and indefinite detention, while others have their support paid for through control of reconstruction funds and government appointments. Lured by positions of power and control of the purse strings, Maliki is effectively bribing his way to reelection.
Through his authoritarian policies, Maliki is creating a centralized state based on a patchwork of arrangements with local leaders. This is a very precarious policy with huge risks, as maintenance of these relationships depends on how local leaders see their future in Iraq. Things could change dramatically if a shift in power relations causes one or more groups to feel threatened or marginalized. If Maliki's web of alliances were to break, Iraq could again be plunged into violent upheaval.
Yesterday Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) was reporting on a new plan to send more US troops into nothern Iraq. That's due to the fact that the Kurdish Regional Government and the central government out of Baghdad have 'tensions' and these tensions have been identified by many in the US military and government as the next big conflict wave to potentially hit Iraq -- on those fears, see Larry Kaplow's Newsweek article here. Today Chip Cummings (Wall St. Journal) reports, "The proposal to deploy fresh forces in the north undrescores a growing worry among U.S. commanders over violence there after the June 30 withdrawal of U.S. troops from all Iraqi cities." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) quotes Gen Ray Odierno stating of the proposed flooding of US forces into Nineveh Province this September, "It won't be full-on if we do it. It will just be to build confidence, then we will slowly pull ourselves out. As we deliberately withdraw our forces, you will see that there will be less forces withdrawn from the north than any other place. It's a recognition of where we think the bigger problem areas are." She also speaks with US Institute of Peace's Sam Parker who gets at the potential problems which is the US is in the middle and, if the central government in Baghdad and the KRG are still in conflict (a good bet is they will be), their presence will be taking sides. (Taking Nouri's side.) And, as Aljazeera explains, the plan, US "forces would start in Ninevah province, which includes Mosul, and then extend to Kirkuk and to Diyala province north of the capital." NPR's Deborah Amos (All Things Considered -- link has text and audio) reports on the development and Odierno tells her, "Unfortunately, they are killing a lot of innocent civilians, and so that is not acceptable to the Iraqi government, and it's not acceptable to us. So we are trying to come up with solutions to solve this problem." And the problem with the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community? Those killings? Oh, apparently only some lives have meaning.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left fifteen people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded an Iraqi Col's guard, a Mosul bombing which wounded four people (including two police officers) and a Tikrit bombing which injured three police officers. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi truck driver, a Mosul car bombing left an Iraqi soldier wounded and -- dropping back to Monday night -- a Mosul car bombing claimed the life of 1 civilian.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul.
"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.
Danny Fitzsimons is facing a trial in Iraq and could be sentenced to death. He served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo. He is accused of being the shooter in a Green Zone incident this month in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. Eric and Liz Fitzsimons spoke to the BBC (link has video) and noted that they are not asking for Danny to 'walk.' They stated that he has to take responsibility. But they want a fair trial and do not believe that is possible in Iraq. His legal defense team doesn't believe he can get a fair trial either stating today that the British military's presence in Iraq during the war means that Fitzsimons will be used as scapegoat. First, a few e-mails came in on the SOFA today. Glad you read it. The SOFA does give Iraq control over contractors. That has nothing to do with Danny Fitzsimons and whether or not he can be tried in England as his attorneys and family desire. The Status Of Forces Agreement is a treaty the US and Iraq entered into. It has nothing to do with England. If that's not clear to you, England had to move there remaining forces into Kuwait last month. Why? Because the Iraqi Parliament had not approved the agreement between England and Iraq. With no agreement, England can't operate there. The SOFA does not cover England. Danny Fitzsimons is not covered by the SOFA. The SOFA applies only to the US and Iraq -- no other countries. Hussein Al-alak (Palestine Chronicle) covers Danny Fitzsimons as well as a protest suicide which has received very little media attention:
Both his father and step-mother admitted to the British media that they weren't even aware he had gone back to Iraq, that coupled with his addiction to alcohol and substances, the failure of the security company to carry out proper medical checks and with many independent witness reports stating that Daniel had been incredibly disturbed back home, it appears that the intelligence of the two Manchester based teachers may outweigh that of the Ministry of Defence, when they stated, "He patently should not have been allowed to go to Iraq. He is extremely poorly."
So why on earth was he sent back? The fact that bad publicity surrounding this case has only now forced many uncomfortable questions to be raised in the parliament of unelected Prime Minister and Tony Blair's financier Gordon Brown, when less than one month before the case of Daniel Fitzsimmons hit the front pages across Great Britain, 25 year old Andrew Watson threw himself off the top of a tower block in London, having saluted in front of the television, the returning bodies of eight soldiers who were brought back from Afghanistan.
When serving in Basra, Watson witnessed the deaths of two of his friends from a landmine and on a separate occasion had to carry out the bodies of dead babies from a bombed out building. According to his mother Glynis Watson, psychologically Andrew Watson "was dead when he came back from Iraq and we were desperately trying to get him the help he needed."
The family also believe that his suicide, which took place at 5 AM in July 2009 coincided with his Army roll-call time and whilst his mother recalled her son "crying in my arms and saying, "I know I'm really, really ill", hit out at the Ministry of Defence for failing to provide him with the emotional support he needed.
It's painful to write about Lynndie England because it's very obvious that she's never been all there in the head. But that doesn't excuse her and she refuses to go away. She refuses to find the rock under which to hide. We're going to drop back to June 30th for the set up on the Charles In Charge look-alike's latest stunts, that's when AP's P.J. Dickersched and Vicki Smith interviewed the War Criminal who was minimizing her actions with statements like "People don't realize I was just in a photo for a split second in time." Lynddie's the criminal who didn't just torture, she thought you went to Iraq to sleep around. And that's how she got pregnant in Iraq. And how she ended up with "It's never my fault! It's all the fault of the man I loved!" She disgraced herself and created an image that female service members have to live down. Lynndie should be hanging her head in shame instead of rushing around on a book tour. Yes, orders for the torutre came from higher up and yes, Charles Graner was selected because of his past history. The guilt doesn't end with Lynndie and Charles. It goes all the way up. But that doesn't absolve them of guilt either. But Lynndie wasn't having any of that. She was harmed, she wanted the world to know. She can't escape her infamy. Boo-hoo. She tells you she tried dying her hair (she did) and that she tried gaining weight (false, she gained it because she ate too much and she was no longer living a physically active life). It's so awful, she insists, because she's recognized.
But she didn't try to change her name. She claims her face is so famous that it wouldn't make any difference. Lynndie's confusing scandal with fame. And if she really wanted to start over, she'd have changed her name and then gone on to reply, "I get that a lot," if anyone did say, "You look like that criminal." Lynndie didn't change her name because she wants the shame she mistakes for fame. That's why she's doing the interview now and prepping for, yes, her book tour. The AP article told you that Lynnide "said she's paid her dues and repeatedly apologized." Did you hear that apology? Not only is it not in the article but anyone who's followed her press (including while she was in prison) is damn well aware that she never apologized and always pushed responsibility for her own actions off on others. She continues to minimize as she attempts to pimp her War Crimes to rake in a buck. Last Thursday, Mark Memmott (NPR) reported she told the BBC that the Abu Ghraib War Crimes were "nothing . . . compared to what they would do to us" and went on to compare it to college initiation ceremonies. By the way, that's why ALL the photos need to be released so that it makes it that much harder for LYING WAR CRIMINALS like Lynndie England to minimize what they did. Her ass should still be in prison and I loved to see the psych consult (which should have been done) that allowed the pregant in prison torturer to raise a child without state supervision. Last week a 'speaking engagement' (shouldn't that be grunting?) of Lynndie's was cancelled. AP reported the Library of Congress engagement was cancelled because the promoter was getting death threats. Lynndie should never have been invited to speak at the Library of Congress to begin with. As for the alleged death threats? Grow the hell up. If they did exist, grow up. You can't do anything without a few death threats. Most of us learned long ago to ignore them. If you don't ignore them, if you freak out and cave in to them, don't whine in public for sympathy. (To be clear, Lynndie is not the one whining and I seriously doubt that any death threat would ever stop her from speaking anywhere.) Frank James (NPR) quotes an employee at the Library of Congress objecting to Lynndie's using the landmark to promote herself:
She is a convicted criminal who was dishonorably discharged, but she's out of prison and on stage at the Library of Congress. You may recall many of the memorable pictures of the glowing Private England during her tour in Iraq, including the one of her standing next to an Iraqi prisoner, a cigarette dangling from her lip, as she points at the Iraqi prisoner's genitals as he stands there naked with a sack over his head as he's forced to masturbate in the presence of GI England and several other nude men. It sure looked like she was enjoying some good times in the picture, so maybe she'll give more behind the scenes details during her lecture on Friday as she expounds on how she's a victim who is deprived of veteran's benefits because of her dishonorable discharge. As she said in an interview published in the West Virginia Metro News on Monday: "Yeah, I was in some pictures, but that's all it was ... I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." That has to be comforting to those who died because of the wave of anger her snapshots ignited in the Middle East, like the family of Nick Berg who was slaughtered in front of a video camera in retaliation for Abu Ghraib, according to his murderers. America as a whole still pays the price for Private England's "wrong place -- wrong time" misadventure, but that won't stop the Library of Congress from opening its doors and handing her the mike.
Meanwhile Shelby Baker (Sweetwater, Tennessee channel 6) reports that Joy Oakes is thrilled her brother Raymond Girouard is getting out of prison. Girouard was found guilty of negligent homicides and of obstruction of justice and cospiracy in the deaths of three Iraqis. In March of 2007, when he was sentenced, Channel Six was reporting that he admitted to "lying about the killings" and they also said Girouard would "be up for parole in three to four years." Three to four? It's barely two years. For any wondering, the Iraqis he had imprisoned and was found guilty in the homicides of? They're still dead. Again, only some lives have meaning, apparently.
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